Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 192–198

Heavy metal pollution in China: Origin, pattern and control

Review Article

DOI: 10.1065/espr2002.11.141.1

Cite this article as:
Cheng, S. Environ Sci & Pollut Res (2003) 10: 192. doi:10.1065/espr2002.11.141.1


Goal, Scope and Background

Heavy metal is among one of the pollutants, which cause severe threats to humans and the environment in China. The aim of the present review is to make information on the source of heavy metal pollution, distribution of heavy metals in the environment, and measures of pollution control accessible internationally, which are mostly published in Chinese.


Information from scientific journals, university journals and governmental releases are compiled focusing mainly on Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn. Partly Al, As, Cr, Fe, Hg, Mn and Ni are included also in part as well.

Results and Discussion

In soil, the average contents of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn are 0.097, 22.6, 26.0 and 74.2 mg/kg, respectively. In the water of the Yangtze River Basin, the concentrations of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn are 0.080, 7.91,15.7 and 18.7 ug/L, respectively. In reference to human activities, the heavy metal pollution comes from three sources: industrial emission, wastewater and solid waste. The environment such as soil, water and air were polluted by heavy metals in some cases. The contents of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn even reach 3.16, 99.3, 84.1 and 147 mg/kg, respectively, in the soils of a wastewater irrigation zone. These contaminants pollute drinking water and food, and threaten human health. Some diseases resulting from pollution of geological and environmental origin, were observed with long-term and non-reversible effects.


In China, the geological background level of heavy metal is low, but with the activity of humans, soil, water, air, and plants are polluted by heavy metals in some cases and even affect human health through the food chain.

Recommendations and Outlook

To remediate and improve environmental quality is a long strategy for the polluted area to keep humans and animals healthy. Phytoremediation would be an effective technique to remediate the heavy metal pollutions.


Cd Cu emission food chain health Pb phytoremediation waste fertilization wastewater irrigation Zn 

Copyright information

© Ecomed Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Lab of Freshwater Ecology and Biotechnology, Institute of HydrobiologyThe Chinese Academy of SciencesWuhanP.R. China
  2. 2.Institute of BotanyUniversity of CologneKoelnGermany

Personalised recommendations